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AMC & KLT: Building on Each Other’s Strengths

Four people in hardhats working with hand-tools on a muddy woods trail

Most seasoned hikers know the feeling: navigating through muddy, eroded, or flooded trails that test both your determination and your hiking boots. With steep inclines and heavy foot traffic, the New England National Scenic Trail (NET) and the Robert Frost Trail (RFT) on the Mt. Holyoke Range are particularly susceptible to erosion.

Shared Paths & Shared Goals

For this reason, Kestrel Land Trust is partnering with the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) to give these trails some essential care. “Much of the work focuses on areas where the paths share a route,” said Chris Volonte, Kestrel’s Stewardship Director, “so it was natural for us to consider a collaboration.”

AMC’s New England Trail Committee is the principal steward and manager of the NET. Kestrel played a role in the creation of the RFT and has recently undertaken a long-term project to ensure its longevity through trail maintenance and improvements.

Miriam Maistelman, the Coordinator for AMC’s NET committee, recognizes the risk of erosion the NET faces and is eager to improve the trail for future generations of hikers.

“Parts of these trails are so eroded that you can see the roots of trees dangling and loose rock. And then, in the winter season the trail can turn into a sheet of ice,” Miriam said. Thanks to funding awarded to Kestrel by the MassTrails Grant Program—two grants totaling $108,800 for two project phases—trail crews are getting their hands dirty and making significant progress.

Four people installing wood boardwalk in woods
Kestrel and AMC staff work together to build a boardwalk on the RFT/NET.

Two-Year Project in Full Swing
Last year, AMC, Kestrel staff, SCA, and the AMC Holyoke NET Youth crews spent six weeks restoring sections of the trails, including adding wooden walkways and a bridge on the RFT north of Norwottuck Ridge. They also improved the climb to Norwottuck’s summit by installing 750 feet of gravel tread, decreasing the incline, and installing grade dips to prevent trail washouts.

On the western side of the Notch, KLT crews rerouted an extremely wet portion of the newly designated RFT route along the lower section of the Low Place Trail south of Mt. Hitchcock. This year, KLT staff and volunteers will continue the work with a bridge on the Low Place Trail, while AMC will complete planned improvements to the Norwottuck summit ascent. Additionally, the steep ascent of Long Mountain, shared by the NET and RFT, will be made easier and safer with step repairs and replacements.

“Parts of these trails were so eroded that you could see the roots of trees dangling and loose rock.”

Partners Make Progress Possible
This project would not have been possible without the partnership between AMC and Kestrel, Miriam stresses: “We’re twice as powerful when we work together,” she says.

Kestrel has a “pulse” on the needs of the community and experience in the complicated world of permits and grants, helping AMC to direct their resources, Miriam explains. On the other hand, AMC has an abundance of trail workers and specialized labor—about 80 seasonal trail workers—that allows them to complete a project of this scale.

With the support of members and volunteers, AMC and Kestrel plan to continue collaborating to protect and sustain these trails for the enjoyment of generations to come.

New boardwalk completed with workers standing at the end
This section of the RFT/NET on Mt. Norwottuck now has a boardwalk, installed by Kestrel and AMC staff and volunteers.
Durable new trail surface on RFT
A more durable fine gravel tread was installed on this section of the RFT/NET trail.
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